It’s time for women in business to let go of the business guilt about everything you think you should be doing and redefine your focus in business so you can achieve business success.
As we head into a change of season and the sunshine has gone here in Melbourne, replaced by the ever present clouds that threaten my clothesline, I realise that I am sitting here with the ‘shoulds’.
With the never ending To Do list in my business, I wonder when the day will come that I simply have nothing to do. You know that day, when you are lounging on the beach, sipping a cocktail and wondering if you will even open your laptop that day…
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. Coaching GIVES me energy. But the realities of running a business can pull you down just as much as they can lift you up. You have to keep on top of your finances, your marketing, your team (if you have one), your clients. Sometimes it feels like wrangling a bunch of stray cats!
Six years ago now I remember being at my graduation ceremony in Melbourne. As a mature age student I had undertaken the marathon of completing an undergraduate degree, while raising five kids, and running a business with my husband. I wonder now where I got that energy.
Completing that degree was a promise I made to myself. In the face of naysayers and disbelievers I had a grit and determination to get it done that I hadn’t seen in myself since I announced I was joining the Navy (a story for another day).
The driver for me was the timeline I set. When I completed my degree I was going to embark on a successful career. As much as I love my children, there are so many other parts of myself that had been neglected for all those years. Parts that were now screaming at me. Clawing and tearing at my heart and soul to be acknowledged. I know now that when you can tap into part of yourself, you can achieve anything, but it takes real vulnerability to see, hear and feel what is going on inside you.
Mastering Work/Life Balance
I had no trouble getting a job with my degree in hand. I was eager and ready to dive in. My husband was very supportive and did his share of the load with kids and the house so I could work at my 28 hour a week job, plus 2.5 hours a day of travel to get there and back. We split the school runs 50/50. It wasn’t easy. It always meant that one of us was having to start late and/or finish early. But we did it. That showed me that it could be done.
But I reached the point where my job became hard, because it wasn’t enough. I outgrew it. It broke my heart that this happened, but I accept that it was a path I had to walk. Those paths we walk are not one long sameness you know, they are a series of short paths that cross over, under and around each other. We move from one to another all the time, often without thinking or realising. But this was one of those fork in the road moments. I had to decide. And I chose me. I decided to go into business for myself. It was late in 2019 and my side hustle as a business coach began.
It wasn’t the start of coaching for me, I had been doing it for free for years. But now people were going to pay me to do and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. It is the dream isn’t it? Getting paid to do what you love?
And Here Came Covid-19
Taking on one more thing wasn’t easy – at all. It felt like everyone and everything suffered. So in February 2020 my resignation was accepted at my job and I became a full time business coach. Time to celebrate, right?
Well one month later – you know what happened. The world changed. Like you, I became a prisoner in my own home. With a new business, kids to home school, and husband who got to walk out the door every day to go to work (damn right I felt resentment about that), and all the usual respite and self care options I would turn to were gone.
I will start with the elephant in the room. The thing that was hardest to cope with emotionally. The thing that nobody seemed to talk about. Having a partner who could continue to work during lockdowns. I didn’t resent him as a person. We were extremely lucky that our business could continue to operate during this time.
But I was jealous of the freedom he had. He could drive places, interact with people, and he didn’t have to do the home schooling. To say that I told him he didn’t understand what it was like to be stuck at home 24/9 is an understatement. How could he know? I thought I was going to implode. This life was everything I didn’t want. I needed space, alone time, focus time. And it just wasn’t available. The adventure of lockdown was short lived for everybody in my home. It wasn’t any easier for my kids.
But now it is 2023. That is all in the past. Or is it?
Just over a year ago, we relocated. We live in a beautiful rural location, surrounded by farmland and the ocean. It is a dream to look out my windows at the views.
But I am haunted. Shaped by the trauma of lockdown. Of being isolated.
I run my business from home and I have found that my life involves very little human interaction in person. And that has given me the shoulds. I feel unmotivated and overwhelmed at the same time.
So I thought it would be helpful to understand the underlying psychological factors that contribute to these feelings. Because I know that understanding something means you can start to work on ways to change and improve.
I found that one factor that may contribute to feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed is a sense of hopelessness or lack of control. When you feel like your efforts are unlikely to lead to positive outcomes or you have limited control over your circumstances, you may experience a sense of helplessness or resignation.
Where Has Your Motivation Gone?
It can make it difficult to feel motivated to take action, and can also contribute to feelings of overwhelm. This is what managing money and marketing feels like for a lot of my clients. I put these two hand in hand because I believe they swim in the same pool and are interrelated. This is what business in general feels like when things are growing the way you hope.
How does that play out for me? I work for myself, alone. With nobody to be accountable to and nobody to make sure I get things done. It is a recipe for disaster. I don’t function well this way. Don’t get me wrong. I am not super organised when I do have a deadline. I am very much a sprint to the finish line kind of person. But that is me in peak operating mode. The adrenaline of that sprint is what fuels me, so when I don’t have it….well…..
Is This Anxiety
I learned that another factor that may contribute to feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed is anxiety. When individuals feel anxious, they may experience a sense of dread or worry that can be difficult to shake. This can make it hard to focus on tasks or to find the energy to take action. Anxiety can also contribute to feelings of overwhelm because you can feel like you are facing an endless stream of tasks or challenges.
I am not your typical anxious person. Not consciously, anyway. But that beast does show me it lives inside. It comes at me in the form of headaches and back pain, and the occasional cold sore. Every now and then it means sitting down to watch a good drama and have a good cry.
Business Guilt and Perfectionists
Perfectionism can also play a role in feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed. When you hold yourself to high standards, you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks or goals you need to accomplish. You may also feel unmotivated if you perceive that you cannot meet these standards, or you fear that you will not meet them perfectly.
For me, perfectionism shows up as constant iterations of things. Always changing, tweaking and updating because things aren’t quite good enough.
Feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed can be a symptom of depression. Depression can make it difficult to feel motivated or to find pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. It can also contribute to feelings of overwhelm because you may feel that your problems are too large to overcome. This is the point where you might be thinking that business is just too hard, and you give up.
I am not depressed, but it does sometimes feel depressing when business doesn’t move forward in the ways you think it might, or with the speed at which you hope. This is when you need to get some help to get you on track.
Exhaustion can be both a symptom and a cause of feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed. This is one that gets me more than anything else.
Why Am I So Tired
Exhaustion can be a symptom of feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated because when you are facing a large number of tasks or challenges, you can feel drained and depleted of energy. This can make it difficult to find motivation and can contribute to feelings of overwhelm as you may feel that they do not have the energy to tackle your problems.
When I am exhausted I feel it mentally. That lack the energy or motivation to perform activities or to take action to get things done can contribute to feelings of overwhelm. It gets you stuck in a cycle of exhaustion and lack of motivation.
It is important to address the underlying causes of exhaustion and to take steps to replenish energy levels. This may involve getting enough sleep, engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and taking breaks when necessary. By addressing exhaustion, you may be better able to find motivation and to manage feelings of overwhelm.
As a coach I know the theory behind these thought patterns. Especially for women. We are extremely self critical. But when you are energised, your ability to hyperfocus means you will excel at some things, while other things get neglected. I know that it is hard to do some things you HAVE to do in business. You don’t want to do them when there are other, much more fun things to do.
Why would you get your accounts up to date when you could be creating on Canva (or is that just me).
Sometimes, it is so easy to get lost down a rabbit hole that means you lose a whole day on the internet, or you start doing the washing, that leads to cleaning out a cupboard, that leads to rearranging the furniture, that leads to painting a wall, that leads to – not getting anything you SHOULD be doing, done.
Feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed can be caused by a variety of psychological factors, including a sense of hopelessness, anxiety, perfectionism, and depression. By understanding these underlying factors, you can identify and address the root causes of their feelings, and take steps to regain a sense of motivation and control.
Having worked with so many women in business now, I know that there is no one size fits all solution to getting you the success you desire. This is why I now have what I call my ecosystem of tools. It is about picking and choosing the tools that are right for you, for your life, for your business, for your personality, for your strengths and your weaknesses.
Where Do You Start?
So when I began creating my coaching program, I started where you probably did, looking at what my competition was doing. And yes, I know that as business owners we need to learn about money management, how to market your business and actually sell when you get a lead. You definitely need to figure out how to price things and brand it all up.
But more importantly, what is top of mind and the first questions I am always asked are How do I start? and Where do I start? How do I find more time without being a bad mother? How do I get the washing done and dinner cooked AND run a business? What should I do first – Build a website? Start posting on social media? Should I just charge a little bit less than everyone else so people buy from me?
Having more questions than answers feels like A LOT. You NEED answers. You feel a deep desire to know what feels like all the stuff that everyone else seems to know but you.
A game changer for the women I have worked with has been finding someone to talk to. That feeling that you aren’t alone – it is a huge weight lifted. Just that alone makes you feel so much better about being in business. That is because you finally know that it isn’t just you. It isn’t just you who feels like they are missing some game changing piece of information that everyone else seems to know. It isn’t just you who feels like they are dropping the ball with their family, or their health, or their relationships.
You aren’t alone.
So what I know is that you need to learn new things, but not everything at once – because that is just more overwhelm.
For me, getting myself out of this funk means getting my backside off the couch and into the gym, connecting with my support network of coaches, and being very careful about how many projects I take on so I don’t have too much to do.
Because it is very easy to curl up in a ball and punish yourself with all the shoulds. I should be doing this, that or the other. I am letting people down, I am letting myself down. I should be spending time with my kids, I should be getting the housework done, I should be making money in my business, I should, should should. But I am not.
Instead of sitting there, pulling your hair out, beating yourself up, and losing hours, days, even weeks expecting Google to give you answers, you may have found it right here.
On July 10, 2023, the first week of term 3 here in Victoria, a brand new program is starting and I am inviting you to be a part of it. Together we will be working through all of the shoulds. If this feels more like a MUST DO or a NEED TO than a SHOULD DO for you, then join the waitlist. Over the coming weeks, I will share more about the program and how you can enrol.